Category Archives: Technology

5 Friday Faves – St. Patrick’s Day, Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement, Tenacity, Manliness, and Embracing the Life You Have

Happy Friday! Hope this week was kind to you. Here are my 5 most favorite finds of the week for you.

1) St. Patrick’s DayLá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish. Still love celebrating this day a bit. Photo Credit: Flickr

Also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak recently shared the following with me via email this morning – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):

  • He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
  • Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
  • He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
  • As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
  • Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
  • God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
  • At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
  • He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
  • He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
  • He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
  • His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.

What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?

  • The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
  • The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters.
  • The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.

2) Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement – Yesterday the live action Disney film Beauty and the Beast debuted in the US. Articles abound about the production – its beauty and grand scenes. Other articles raise the question of whether it is as family-friendly as the Disney animated classic by the same name. Everyone will have to decide for themselves about whether to watch this film and how often. One very easy decision would be watching the just-released classical guitar arrangement by Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar).

It is beautiful, even with less-grand scenes, and its own Belle and wee beast. It is definitely family-friendly and the music is lovely. Enjoy!

3) TenacityFirst Round posted the fascinating story – Lessons in Tenacity – of how entrepreneur Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, built his business. He saw tenacity at work in the growing and thriving of his location technology company.

Tenacity is that characteristic in a person or group that keeps her/them moving forward – persistence, resolve, determination.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Read the article for examples Crowley gives, and here’s his illuminating summary:

Tenacity has many manifestations for founders and their startups. At the beginning, it’s often deeply tied to identity. Giving up one’s idea feels like giving up on oneself. After hitting early milestones, tenacity is confidence. But it’s best tempered with humility, so as to avoid flying too high on early wins. As a company scales, tenacity is focus. There will be accompanying growing pains as customers sign up, headcount grows and the market responds. Anchor and orient yourself by asking: what is this supposed to be when it grows up? When the going gets tough, tenacity is grit. Don’t look externally to others to build what you need — you’ll be waiting longer than you want. Do it yourself. Lastly, tenacity is culture and a private truth. Tenacity at scale will both involve and elude people. What guides the team isn’t always accurately reflected in the public’s perception. An informed, committed team around you is the best way to drown out the noise and to march toward achieving your biggest goals.

“These different facets of tenacity are important insofar as invoking them keeps your legs moving and charging forward. Growing a company is an impossibly hard endeavor — many wouldn’t start if they knew just how difficult it is,” Crowley says. “But the early stories of most successful companies are often those in which no one thought it could be done. In fact, if you asked them, those founders probably didn’t know if they could do it either. But if you can get there — if you stick to what you set out to do — it can put you in an amazingly powerful and defensible position.

4) Manliness – We should affirm, empower, and let loose women to fulfill their callings, giftings, and places in the world. Not being sexist, the same is true for men, of course. That’s why I appreciate the website/podcast the Art of ManlinessThe Art of Manliness aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men (the About page).

I don’t go with everything on this website but some of the content is fascinating and extremely helpful. I hope never to have to jump from a speeding car but knowing it’s possible to walk away from such a situation made me interested in reading about it.

Photo Credit: Art of Manliness

This information isn’t just for men, but some of the entries are male-specific. We women write volumes about how to be “better women”. I’m glad there are men (and women) are writing for men in this way.

10 Tests, Exercises, and games to Heighten Your Senses and Situational Awareness – Brett & Kate McKay – Art of Manliness

5) Embracing the Life You Have – We have all experienced losses. We grieve…and grieve again. As time goes by, the grief changes, but that doesn’t mean it has to change us. At least not in an unhealthy way. John Piper speaks about this so eloquently and tenderly:

Embrace the Life God Has Given You

Piper: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Posted by Desiring God on Saturday, March 11, 2017

I have in mind two kinds of losses: those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and forty years on you think, “I’ve come to terms with that,” and then one morning it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year “never have,” and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep.

But then, say to your weeping after a season, “No. You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me.” Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons — feel the losses. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you. – John Piper

As one who struggles with waves of grief out of nowhere…thank you, Dr. Piper.

Principal Financial Group has been running a series of commercials with the theme Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan. Three of their commercials follow. Sweet messaging…

Be gentle with yourself and each other. Serve somebody, and be safe out there. [Oh, and please share in Comments your favorites of the week. Thanks!]

Bonuses

Who are the Refugees? Which are their Host Countries? Take a Guess.

Who hosts the most refugees?

10 countries host 50% of the world's refugees. These countries are hosting the most.

Posted by Al Jazeera English on Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Granny Pod – Ingenious and honoring idea.

What do you think of these Granny Pods?

Posted by Earthables on Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mom Truths

Mom Truths: Why moms are so tired

"You know what we do all day? EVERYTHING." Thanks, Cat & Nat, for sharing this #MomTruth Friday with us! More: http://on.today.com/2m2cNCD

Posted by Today Show on Friday, March 3, 2017

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

5 Friday Faves – Snow Days, Organizing Your Life, Riveting Short Film, Dayman Cover, and the Possibility of Unity

Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:

1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.

2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!

Photo Credit: Paul Sohn

3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving.  About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo

4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]

The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.

Photo Credit: Instagram via Facebook

Watch:  Green Person Performs ‘The Dayman’ From ‘Always Sunny’ Classical Guitar – Michael Tanenbaum – The Philly Voice

5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.

Photo Credit: Jarrod Shappell; Philip Yancey (YouTube)

First, this from Jarrod Shappell:

“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.

Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.

We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.”  – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent

Then, from Philip Yancey:

“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’  I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.

As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all.  The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year.  Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world.  Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook.  May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party.  As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap

Bonus: Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:

Rolling Stone: Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80

Have a great, great weekend. Please share with us (in the Comments) any favorite finds of your own this week.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest

Blog - Screentime - smart3508Photo Credit: SafeSmartSocial

Walked away from the computer at 8:00 last night…best night of sleep I’ve had in a long while.

Alex Cavoulacos, productivity expert and founder of The Muse, wrote a Fast Company piece on establishing the habit of turning off screens at 11:00pm each night. A night owl, Cavoulacos discovered, in forming this habit that she: 1) could actually do it, 2) prioritized her work better, 3) finally found time to read, and 4) slept better. “Turns out that I inadvertently stumbled upon a trigger habit: I was reading more, sleeping more, and spending more quality time with my husband. All of this led to me feeling less stressed and better prepared to start each day. All in all, a huge positive change in my life, all thanks to a single new habit.” Check out her whole article and fascinating video here.

Tanya Lewis, a science journalist, went even farther than Cavoulacos in restricting her screen time. She writes, for Business Insider, that, for one week, she avoided screen time from the time she got off work until she went to bed. That means no TV or Netflix, no checking her phone for directions or searches of other kinds, or just out of boredom, and no tablet time for any of the above. What she discovered was how hard it was and how dependent to screen time she had become. She did start reading books again during that week. She also found that when she avoided screens, getting to sleep was easier. The most fascinating thing she noted was how much more social she became without the distraction of screens.

Night time connection

Anybody remember the old days, before wi-fi and smart phones? And the cable went out because of a storm? We would actually light candles and snuggle together on the couch, play games together, be silly, and talk. Special times worth re-creating with a screen fast.

How about our health? Is there any evidence that all this screen time, especially at night, affects our health, over our lifespan? For sure. Read Power Down for Better Sleep by Heather Hatfield on WebMD. She quotes fatigue specialist, Dr. Mark Rosekind, “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation.” What we are watching on screens late at night revs up our brains and stirs us up physically. This stress (positive or negative) can create a flight/flight response, resulting in our body’s release of cortisol – bringing on a state of vigilance rather than the restfulness needed for sleep. Add to our body’s “high alert” status the blue light of electronics. Hatfield reports how this light passes “through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.” To my sleepless, techie friends and family: it makes sense, right? Put it (screen time) to rest.

[Damon Beres in a Huffington Post piece, writes how “reading on a screen before bed might actually be killing you”. He points out the health problems that can result partly from inadequate rest (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease). He also points to blue light filters that can help if we can’t imagine avoiding screen time at night.]

What about the impact of screen time on the brain over time? Debbie Hampton wrote a fascinating, sobering piece How Staring at a Screen Changes Your Brain (For the Worse). Hampton refers the reader to the findings of Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.

“Visual activities, like staring at a screen or even driving, continually narrow our field of view to a smaller box-like zone right in front of our eyes. Our brains learn to categorize everything outside of this box as a distraction not worthy of attention and get good at filtering out anything not right in front of us. By developing sustained attention in the central view, our peripheral vision suffers, and our view of the world slowly contracts. The field of view in humans decreases as we age. Over time, a person becomes immune to noticing life’s visual surprises, and their eyes move less often. As a result of these self-induced neurological changes, our brains and bodies get conditioned not to pay attention and not to react to the unexpected.”

What does that mean for us? You have probably already seen this in action. Our attention is drawn in, fairly fixed, on our screens. We miss what is happening around us. One day I’m going to write about situational awareness – as a personal safety issue as well as a sharpening discipline to appreciate life around us. This whole addiction to screens that is prevalent today will take the rest of the world out of our view, so to speak, if we’re not careful.

For our sake (at work and home) and for our family’s sake, consider: No screen time before bed.Blog - Screentime - mugmagPhoto Credit: MugMag

Speaking of the family…our children – I will just post these quick reads about little ones (and teens) and how so much screen time affects them physically, socially, and developmentally. We fall into these habits with our children, but we can also pull ourselves, and them, out of the same.

What’s your takeaway from this? I personally want to strategically narrow the screen use in my life. Writing makes screen time an occupational hazard but I love those screens way too much outside of blogging. Thanks to Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity and his book about his productivity project, I have already made some changes. No Facebook on my phone, as one change. Still have a long way to go.

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss the people I love, in the flesh, and I don’t want to miss the real world…and lastly, I don’t want to miss truly experiencing God…because of this surreal, burgeoning habit of screen time. So…I will leave you for now. Well-rested, hopefully. Sweet dreams.

5 Friday Faves – Millennials in the Workplace (ebook), Garden in Between, Productivity Tips (Infographic), Chicken Fiesta, and Old Family Film Favorites

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday – Friday the 13th…and the sun finally came out. This weekend looks to be great fun – with the birthday of our youngest, the Lebanese Food Festival, a friend’s baptism in the James River, and whatever else comes along. Hope your weekend looms as quiet or as hopping as you need after this week’s work. Here are my favorites for this Friday. Any you want to share?

1) Millennials in the Workplace (ebook) – By 2025, millennials (those born between 1981-2000) are predicted to make up 75% of the workforce. This generation of young professionals has arrived and rather than being over-analyzed and criticized, we are short-sighted not to equip them to take over one day. We all know that first week of work experience – grueling mind-numbing orientation. Why do we keep doing it “like we always have” and not change it up to meet the needs of this generation? Bridge is helping companies begin to do that brilliantly: Bridge’s features are designed to empower simple, intuitive learning that’s delivered to your mobile, active employees, anywhere, anytime on any device. Bridge provides you with real data and real insights about your employees’ learning, which can lead to real progress. Start with their short and extremely insightful free ebook on millennials in the workplace. Your thinking on training and development will be changed and millennials will thank you.Business meeting at a modern company.Photo Credit: GetBridge

2) The Garden in Between – In Richmond, we’re in that period of the waning early Spring garden. I will miss the Irises especially. As flowers curl up and petals fall, the wise gardener (my husband) has prepared, seasons ago, for new blooms to appear in glorious freshness. Walking around the garden early this morning brought sweet discoveries – the first Gerber Daisy (a gift from a friend last year), the last bloom of our Irises, the first blooms on the Lamb’s Ear, green Hydrangea clusters, and, finally, my husband’s “happy flowers” coming back – hardy little Begonias blooming again this year.IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5931IMG_5932IMG_5933

3) Productivity Tips (Infographic) – Being truly productive is hugely important to me – not just staying busy or having lots of meetings, but being genuinely productive. I’ve written about productivity before here – focusing on Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity. I’m a visual learning so infographs are like candy. Wrike developed a helpful one entitled 50 Productivity Tips to Boost Your Brainpower. Really excellent. Any of these especially effective in your pursuit of productivity? [There’s a link at the bottom of the infographic that supposedly spells out each tip in detail, but I couldn’t make it work. So here’s a quick read by Tim Ferriss on his productivity tricks.]

Blog - Productivity infographic - awesomeinventionsPhoto Credit: Awesome Inventions

4) Chicken Fiesta – My husband has been meeting with friends and colleagues at Chicken Fiesta for quite some time. For me, it took awhile because I’m not usually into Mexican food – hard on my tummy. However, this cool little restaurant has made me a recent convert. Great grilled meats and the sides are fresh and not overly seasoned. They have extra sauces you can add to take the flavors of the foods different directions. Straight-up satisfying lunch place for me. What’s a favorite of yours where you are? (Comment below).Blog - Chicken FiestaPhoto Credit: RVA News

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5) Old Family Film Favorites – We all have favorite films from our children’s childhoods. I’m actually not really sure how favorite the two below are to them…but they were favorites of mine. Fly Away Home, (1996, Columbia Pictures) has packaged so much story in a small film – family drama (not a Disney film, but the mother still dies), spectacular scenery, majestic Canadian geese (from gosling to migration), and a perfect song. Below is a sweet sample of the movie with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 10,000 Miles as soundtrack.

Then there’s my all-time-snuggle-up-with-the-kids favorite: Disney’s The Kid. Of course, they were big kids when it was released (2000), so it made snuggle-time all the more precious and rare. Disney’s The Kid is a magical story of a man clearly successful but missing the “most important’s” of life. Then just before his 40th birthday, an 8y/o version of himself (Rusty) and a much older Russ all somehow share life in a way that brings healing and resolution of some deep childhood wounds. [It’s a Disney film – sorry, but the mother dies.] Bruce Willis plays Russ, and Spencer Breslin is Rusty. Their dialogues are sometimes hilarious/sometimes touching – always endearing. The clip below isn’t great quality but it’s all I could find to show the scene late in the movie when the elder Russ finally reveals himself to the younger Russ/Rusty. The story all comes together joyfully. Buy this or rent it – for a weekend snuggle.

2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (5)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (6)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (3)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (4)

Addicted to Distraction and the Possibility of Restoring a Longer Attention Span

Blog - Addicted to distraction - diygeniusPhoto Credit: DIY Genius

Recently I was at a training event in a remote area where I had no cell phone service and limited internet. It meant I went through stressful training and at the same time experienced a forced exile from screen time. I don’t even have to tell you which was more challenging.

Growing up in my generation was very different than now – playing outside until dark, talking for hours on the phone with friends, falling asleep to the comforting drone of Mom and Dad talking and laughing in their bedroom down the hall. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film October Sky, it makes me think of Dave’s growing up also – playing in the woods, biking everywhere, building rockets, hunting and fishing.Blog - Playing Outside - jeffs60sPhoto Credit: Jeffs60s

We are enjoying different advantages now for sure…I wonder how our grandchildren will one day describe their childhood. Having computers and the internet have been amazing assets to our lives. The dilemma is when our screen life becomes more engaging that our real life. When “Facetime” replaces face-to-face time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to see people via phone. For instance, friends of ours who got married recently had a small wedding, BUT they had a friend live-stream the wedding and all the rest of us got to “be there” via Periscope. Saw the kiss and everything. 2016 March 5 - Megan & Brian Wedding Kiss

There is something to be said about all the electronic capabilities we have today. For sure.BLog - Addicted to Distraction - littleredfrenchPhoto Credit: LittleRedFrench

The problem is when objects take command of our lives. These screens (phones, TV, computers) eat up so much of our day. Also, what about when we start exchanging real time relationships with the barest minimum associations via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? When a friend decided to go off Facebook, I was bummed… At that time, she lived 6 minutes from me. Not like my friends in Morocco or Egypt where I depend most on Facebook to keep up with them. She lives right here in town. We can have real coffee’s and real talks on the phone. Sigh… I had pretty much relegated keeping up with her to social media. Now we’re back affiliated only in real life where I might need to call her. Imagine.

I’ve written about this before (here) and want to manage my life better in this area. Multi-tasking was always something I thought was a strength, but now, getting older, it hasn’t helped me develop much of an attention span (see Charlie Munger’s thoughts on this here). It makes sense that thinking long and hard on something would have a powerful impact on our success or decision-making. Focus. Concentration. These are the things that have suffered in my life with all the distractions.

Kyle Pearce wrote a small piece on being distracted and introduced me to the work of Nicholas Carr (who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us). The 4-minute YouTube video below describes some of what he writes about:

Besides managing the distractedness in thinking, memory, and processing information, I want to nurture a habit of deep conversation. Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) writes about this and gives me hope.

Blog - Distracted - conversations - quotesgramPhoto Credit: QuotesGram

Turkle admits she loves computers because they have helped her make tremendous strides in writing, but they are not people. She writes as if she’s reading my heart. This disconnected connection we experience with one another is so illusory.

“Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” – Sherry Turkle
Here’s my hope and vision – to re-learn how to really be connected with people, including myself. To practice solitude. To quit living the excuse of being distractible. To learn how to think and work deeply, and to remember how to have deep, thoughtful conversations again.
I’m not prepared to stop using my phone for information, nor am I able to quit using the internet as a resource for work and life, but it’s entirely possible to restrict connection time.  Also, it’s exciting to think of how I might use that time I waste on the internet to actually be with friends and loved ones…to read more books…to rediscover what is right in front of me in real life…to know what it’s like to have (and enjoy) a quiet mind.

The good news is that the process of withdrawal is simple and the healing is spontaneous; because it is only the continuous high volume consumption of mass media that is keeping us sick. So, at root, the detox programme is merely a matter of Just. Say. No.” – Bruce G. Charlton

What might the next generation be like if our grandchildren are nurtured in this way? How can we help them have such mental muscle and true sociability that they could avoid being addicted to distraction?

It’s something to think about…off-line. Gone to find a real face and give that face my full attention.

Distracted? This is How the Internet is Changing Your Brain by Kyle Pearce

Multitasking – Giving the World an Advantage It Shouldn’t Have – Farnam Street Blog

Are We Addicted to Distraction? by Sophie at LittleRedFrench

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – originally written in 1985, brilliantly prophetic of the future (updated in 2015)

Pickup Trucks, Culture, and a TV Commercial Like No Other

Blog - 2016 Nissan Titan XDPhoto Credit: Car and Driver

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton

My dad always owned Ford pickup trucks. He taught me to drive in one of those trucks. Standard transmission and all. Dad said you always need a truck to haul stuff around. Mom loved using rocks to make walls for our yard, and he hauled those home for her.

The very last truck Dad bought was a bright red Dodge Ram pickup. He was in his late 80’s and would stop driving soon after, because of Alzheimer’s. He always wanted a red pickup…and this was his last one. Fancy.Blog - Dodge ram pickupPhoto Credit: The Car Connection

During the post-season of NFL football in the US, new commercials for all sorts of products abound. We football TV watchers actually look for them. Many are geared toward the men in the viewing audience – looking to buy “manly” stuff. Still, most products cross gender lines, and pickups definitely do. This commercial by Nissan promoting the 2016 Titan pickup truck is a huge marketing stand-out. Extraordinary, really.

90 seconds of beauty…poetry…honoring those who’ve gone before.

After watching it a few times already, I am completely enthralled. Who was on the creation team for it? Who came up with the “shoulders of giants” idea? Were they all in their 20’s or was this a multi-generational effort? I want to know these things.

An article from Auto News, gives a bit of the story of how a commercial like this one is born.

It was a bit outside the box when Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, recruited Jeremy Tucker from Disney last fall to head Nissan marketing.

Blog - Nissan Titan pickup truck - Jeremy Tucker

Photo Credit: Auto News

Tucker put the question directly to his future boss.

“I told Fred, I’m not a car guy,” says Tucker. “I’m a consumerist. I love humans. I love marketing. I’m an idea guy. I’m trained as a storyteller. I learned the philosophy of ‘imagineering’ from Disney. So how do you bring together that dreaming and doing?

“And Fred said, ‘That’s exactly what I want.'”

Jeremy Tucker further had this to say about marketing in a field out of his expertise (cars/trucks), “I’m looking at it all through a fresh lens — through the eyes of people and families, and through the lens of passion and engagement. My job is to bring all that together, to bring collaboration and new ideas to build relationships with the consumer.” 

Forbes article points out the uniqueness of one company (Nissan)honoring the greatness of those who went before – Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge. Those “shoulders of giants” for Nissan.

“We wanted to reach out to areas where no man has gone before, and we’ve done just that,” Diaz said. “By showing and acknowledging, or saying thank you to people you’re about to go to battle with, or compete with, is something you just don’t see, and that’s what we needed to do.”

While sure to turn some heads because of its unusual approach, the ad is consistent with what Tucker called “Nissan’s marketing strategy of leveraging big cultural moments”.

When you think of the airing of this commercial during the NFL playoffs and Superbowl, Diaz’ words are packed with meaning, beyond the choice of a pickup truck.

So here’s to the creators of the 2016 Nissan Titan XD and to the creators of its promotional ad. Wow! 30 years ago, my husband bought his very first new vehicle – it was the Nissan D21 Hardbody pickup. When we were overseas, his dad used it and was kind to give it back to Dave now that we’re back. 30 years and still going. That’s what you can expect from a company that learns from the giants who went before…and understands the importance of knowing your culture and telling stories that touch the heart of that culture.Blog - Dave's Nissan Pickup

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull’s Story of Pixar, Working with Creatives, & Steve Jobs

untitledIMG_0223Photo Credit: Amazon.com (l) & Deb Mills (r)

Dave, the husband in my story, has always pointed me in the direction of transformative books and learning experiences. That path converged with this year’s Global Leadership Summit and Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.

Bill Hybels interviewed Ed Catmull about his role in co-founding Pixar Animation Studios and pioneering the field of computer animation. Now President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, he has an extraordinary story to tell of leading creatives in innovative film-making. Mr. Catmull’s wisdom and humility can be well-applied in any workplace situation.Blog - GLobal Leadership Summit - Ed Catmull by brainpickings.orgPhoto Credit: brainpickings.org

“Science and art are not incongruous. Art isn’t about drawing; it’s about learning to see. Which business or professions do you not want to have enhanced ability to see?”

During this interview at GLS15, he talked about the business processes he uses in film-making. We can relate this level and quality of  accountability in any organization or company:

  1. Teams working together (using a Brain Trust – a group of colleagues all acting as peers, with vested interest, giving feedback;
  2. When failures happen in production – embracing [failure] but at the same time dealing with it with both total candor and kindness; and
  3. Operating within constraints (a budget) – actually pushes creativity higher and delivers better outcomes.

“Stories influence the world. We want to use story-telling for good.”

Listening to Ed Catmull talk about leading at Pixar and Disney whetted our appetites to read his book Creativity, Inc.

Originally, Mr. Catmull worked in the computer graphics department of Lucasfilm, in the beginning years of computer animation. In his book, he tells about his incredible journey in those early years right through to today. It was a wildly bumpy road at first and the work was almost sidelined had it not been for Steve Jobs buying Pixar from Lucasfilm.

Toward the end of the book, Catmull writes about Steve Jobs. They worked together for over 25 years, and the Jobs he knew was a much more complex and lovely man than who we knew through other media. A tribute full of “candor and kindness” – as much about how Ed Catmull sees people as about the amazing leader that was Steve Jobs.

Whatever your work, you want to read this book. Catmull describes how he modeled openness, confidence in, and care for his employees. There are trust builders and wide gates for innovation woven into Pixar’s business processes. Whatever our sphere of influence is, we can all learn to be more effective leaders as we think through how Catmull leads.

At the end of Creativity, Inc., there are 5 pages of bulleted principles that Mr. Catmull encourages as starting points for critical thinking. Here are just a few:

  • If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.
  • It’s isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
  • Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

Creativity, Inc. is not just a book for whom we now consider “creatives”. It’s a book for any of us who want to employ and empower people to grow personally and in community and to produce in ways that yield great products/services.

We all have stories that can influence the world for good…if we grow a work culture where those stories matter and can be freely explored.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

YouTube Video – Steve Jobs Remembered by Larry Ellison and Pixar’s Ed Catmull

YouTube Video – Ed Catmull: Keep Your Crises Small

10 Quotes by Jon Acuff on Developing New Skills & Sharpening Old Ones – Part 3 of Do Over Series

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Nathan Mills Guitar

There’s this guitarist I know. His music is a work in progress. Not his music itself, because he hones his craft daily. Still, his career in music is a study in skill development. No industry stands still. The ability to silence a room with the sound you bring out of a guitar does not a living make. Usually.

There are so many other skills called to bear in a successful career in music today. Composing, arranging, teaching, performing, collaborating, marketing, production, diversifying style or instrument. Whew!

Then there’s your day job (by necessity, or for other reasons). Wisdom is to bring the same disciplines and desire, of that skilled musician, to work every day. To be the best asset you can be for your employer or your company. Shirking entitlement and nurturing an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Who is this person?!

Jon Acuff talks about becoming such a person in his book Do Over. He tackles the subject of sharpening and developing skills as imperative to any career, and especially to break through a Career Ceiling.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a job? No, I’m not talking about being ungrateful or feeling entitled to a better situation. I’m talking stuck – as in getting to a place in your job where you can’t see being able to ever advance or be more creative or grow professionally?

Acuff invites us readers to take a good look at our skills to see what exactly we uniquely bring to your job. This would include skills we might have discounted or even forgotten we had.

Below are 10 bits of wisdom from Jon’s section on skills:

  • Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second.
  • When you hit a Career Ceiling, skills will be the hammer you use to break through.
  • Don’t let fear hide a skill you’ve always had or wanted to pursue. Just because you’re afraid of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Small skills have the tendency to add up to big careers.
  • Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.
  • When you have a bad attitude it flavors every part of your performance.
  • If you want to get better at something, it always costs time. If you don’t have any, steal some from…Facebook or any number of things that are requesting that resource without paying you anything in return.
  • I’m convinced that fear beats the “You don’t have enough time” drum because it never wants you to invest in your career. This is a lie.
  • Your willingness to discipline one part of your life creates freedom in another.
  • You will need skills most when you find yourself stuck. The ceilings are designed to filter out the lazy and uncommitted. Every skill can be a hammer. Start banging. Career Ceilings were meant to be broken.

Like with looking at our relationships, he calls for us to use note cards and list (one per card) all the skills we can think of – whether currently using them or only in the past; whether work-related or not so much. Once we’ve exhausted our ideas on skills then, he says to look for patterns.* It’s so easy to settle into a rut of doing the same thing every day. Going after new skills and sharpening old ones help us to be good at our jobs and, at the same time, love our work.

Whether you are a musician, a teacher, an I.T. guy or a caregiver, you have skills and you can build on those skills. Determining to be diligent to grow your skills and grateful for the opportunities to learn will take you farther than you know. Right through that career ceiling.

“You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever. – Jon AcuffBlog - Do Over - Jon Acuff

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

*A Simple Two-Step Exercise for Figuring Out What You’re Really Good At – Jon Acuff, Business Insider Start Your Do Over Today

Start Your Do Over Today! – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff: Why Most People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can

Nathan Mills on Vine

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Learning new skills on-site with Habitat for Humanity